The Israeli Air Force operates one of the largest fleets of advanced fighter aircraft in the world. In 2012, after ordering F-35s, it recognized that it needed a new advanced high-performance trainer.
“We looked for an actual trainer,” said Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Ido Nehushtan, who was the commander in chief of the Israeli Air Force at the time of the procurement. “Flight safety is absolutely a priority and the aircraft needed to show best value for money for the whole package of training.
“We went to the market and looked at the different candidates. We decided on 150 different criteria of comparison and flew each and every one of the options.”
The air force ordered 30 Leonardo M-346s, powered by twin Honeywell F124 engines. The M-346 is an advanced lead-in fighter trainer aircraft that is optimized for pilots who will go on to fly the latest-generation, high performance military aircraft.
The M-346’s wide flight envelope, its very high thrust/weight ratio and extreme maneuverability make it capable of reproducing flight conditions similar to those that trainee pilots will find on the combat aircraft they will go on to operate.
Nehushtan says, compared to some modern trainers, the center stick control helps instructors to lead their students in each and every move in the cockpit. And the twin Honeywell F124 engines, which have not had a single failure in four years of service, improve flight safety.
“We liked the two engines and the redundancy that it provides with the young pilots, with the price of a single engine,” he said. “The M-346 has really lived up to expectations, in all aspects.”